MINNESOTA

 

                      BULLETIN

 

Quarterly Publication of the

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota, Inc.

100 East 22nd Street

Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404

Voice:  (612) 872-9363

Website:  http://www.nfbmn.org/

Tom Scanlan, Editor

E-mail tom.scanlan@earthlink.net

 

Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2011

 

WE ARE CHANGING

WHAT IT MEANS

TO BE BLIND

 

Table of Contents

 

President’s Column. 1

Ode to a Mentor and a Friend. 5

State Services for the Blind Update. 9

Report from Our Library. 12

Promoting Literacy and Quality Education for Blind Students in Minnesota. 16

Technology Aids Lives of 2 Blind St. Cloud Women. 19

Meet the Blind Month. 21

Do You Know Someone Needing Money for College?. 29

Convention Alert! 30

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember 30

Acknowledgements. 31


President’s Column

Report to the 2010 Annual Convention

By Jennifer Dunnam, President

 

I would like to take a few moments to talk with you about the accomplishments of the NFB of Minnesota during the last year, our 90th year of existence!  We have been making progress in many areas. 

 

Advocacy

 

One of the primary purposes of this organization is, of course, advocacy.  We continually engage in advocacy, because we know that the status quo of blindness is not good enough.  We are always pushing for change and pushing for improvement. 

 

It has been almost a year since we participated in the interview for the new director of State Services for the Blind of Minnesota.  We were pleased to provide advice in that selection process, and we were glad to see the hiring of Richard Strong to direct the agency.  He is a person with a good understanding of the needs of blind people, and we look forward to good things.  We have seen some progress, but of course, he is also well aware that we are watching and have not hesitated to let him hear from us on areas that need improvement.

 

Through our conventions, we provide advice to SSB as well as to other agencies.  We also serve on advisory councils and committees for programs related to blindness, because they need the input of the collective experience of the organized blind, about what the needs are, and what they are not.

 

Last year the convention passed two resolutions dealing specifically with SSB matters.  One had to do with the production of electronic texts by the communication center.  We presented that resolution to SSB, and we understand they are moving forward with it now.

 

We also passed a resolution last year regarding our concerns about the low rate of successful employment closures from SSB.  There is now a task force upon which we are represented, to analyze the data and propose solutions to the issues there.

 

You will recall that in 2009 we worked to assist with the passage of legislation that strengthened the requirements for state government to make its technology accessible in a nonvisual manner.  We led the effort in 1998 to get this issue on the table and getting the first round of legislation passed.  This year, we assisted in getting it strengthened and brought up to date with current federal standards.  The standards that resulted from that law have been implemented as of September 1, 2010, and we will be vigilant to see that they happen.  The standards are good, but they will only be as good as the enforcement.

 

This year our legislative focus was on training requirements for counselors at State Services for the Blind.  We have been working for a very long time to improve the quality of staff training at the agency — through advocacy in individual cases, through continuous efforts in writing, in public, and all kinds of efforts to bring about improvement.  This year we were successful in getting legislation passed, requiring that any counselor working at State Services for the Blind must go through a minimum of six weeks of sleepshades training to be a counselor at the agency.  Of course, we will watch to make sure that it works, and if it needs strengthening, we will see it gets strengthened.

 

Also legislatively this year, we were the only organization of the blind to step up and point out a major inequity in the proposed budget cuts that would have disproportionately affected services to blind people through SSB.  We irritated a whole bunch of legislators to bring their attention to the situation, but we were a part of the successful effort to avoid the problem.

 

Back in March, we participated in a listening session conducted by the Minnesota Employment Policy Initiative which is a project designed to increase the employment of people with disabilities in the state of Minnesota.  There were about 15 listening sessions for different types of disabilities; there was one specific to blindness.  Many members attended and discussed the issues around employment for people who are blind in Minnesota.  These listening sessions, plus other research conducted by the group, will result in policy briefs that are meant to inform employers, government — anyone concerned and in a position to do things about the high unemployment rate among blind people.  The briefs will be made available via their Website.  As of this report, we have not yet seen a final copy of the brief related to employment and blindness; we have seen interim drafts and provided many comments to ensure that they accurately reflect what we want to have said about blind people.  Of course, we stressed the need for training in the basic skills and positive attitudes about blindness.  We were able to raise issues and concrete examples of things that the NFB has been working on, such as the partnership that we have with eBay to create self-employment opportunities.  We informed the makers of the policy briefs about the new technology standards provided for greater access to information, implemented this fall, which have great potential to impact employment for people working in state government.  Others had input on those briefs, but we have done our best to make them inspiring to all interested and concerned with doing something about the issues.

 

We have remained active with the Secretary of State’s office on election-related issues.  We were instrumental a few years ago in getting legislation passed here in Minnesota that provides for nonvisual access to voting.  We continue to work with the Secretary of State’s office to monitor the implementation of that legislation. 

 

Nurturing the Movement

 

We have continued working on projects to bring youth in to our movement.  Our teen night occurs in the Metro area on the third Friday evening of every month from September to May.  We have reached out to a number of new youth through that program.  We have had some very successful Saturday schools over the past year, and we are working to strengthen that and get it built so that we can bring in younger children of ages 5-12. 

 

In partnership with Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., State Services for the Blind, and the Minnesota Department of Education, we conducted a “Transition to Independence” day.  The purpose was to give blind students, their teachers, and their parents the chance to interact with blind role models, to discuss the real-life issues and solutions regarding transition from high school to postsecondary education, and on to employment.  Most of the participants in that event were new to us.  We look forward to continuing to build relationships with them. 

 

As part of the promotion of that event, we made two presentations at the Statewide Vision Network, which is the network for teachers who work with blind students in Minnesota.  In those presentations, we also discussed other programs offered by the National Federation of the Blind for youth.  We met teachers who were not familiar with our work but who were glad to learn of it. 

 

We had a booth at the Minnesota Education Association conference for the first time this year, and made many new contacts because of that effort.  Other Meet the Blind Month activities around the state helped to bring awareness to our work and to the truth about blindness.  Other outreach efforts have included an increased presence in social media via our Twitter and Facebook pages, which engage people and help to get the word about us into the mix.  These sites also make another way for people to talk with us, and stay connected.

 

This year, we finally got a beautiful new sign on our NFB of Minnesota headquarters.  On one end, it reads "National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota", and on the other end, "Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Inc.”  This is another way to continue to let the public know what is happening in that building, besides making it easier to find us!

 

As a result of a discussion at our last annual convention, we made some changes to the format of our semiannual convention this time, holding a business session in the morning, and doing sessions on specific topics in the afternoon.  The changes were well received, and we will continue to look at ways of making our conventions and other events the way that we want them to be and what works best.

 

We have conducted some conference calls for members who are not able to attend regular chapter meetings.  We will continue and strengthen that effort as well.

 

In the last year, we formed a new division for senior citizens who are blind.  Joyce Scanlan capably leads it.  There is no doubt that the division will make sure that our whole organization is informed and that senior issues are an integral part of our work.

 

Of course, we always participate in national NFB events.  We had 83 Minnesotans at this past summer's national convention.  We have members who are leaders in our national divisions as well, and we have worked to help raise funds for our national programs.  As always, we had a delegation at the Washington Seminar this past February that spoke personally with many of our Congressmen and Senators, working with them on issues of maintaining our independence — such as sound requirements for the silent cars, removing work disincentives for Social Security beneficiaries, and providing access to technology through a "Technology Bill of Rights".

 

Speaking personally as I finish my third year as serving as the president of this affiliate, I so appreciate the chance to work with such a committed group of people.  We have amazing people in this affiliate, who work hard to support our movement.  This is how we get things done.  People are not only working on the big things, out in front, but there are all kinds of little ways and behind-the-scenes work without which we could not succeed in all that we do.  I offer a big "thank-you" to everyone who works so hard!

 

This weekend we will be looking back some and we will also be looking forward.  We have had 90 years full of accomplishment, and we will have many more to come.  There are many challenges and opportunities, and I know that this organization will meet them all.  One of our priorities for the coming year must be to work on developing our members as well as bringing in more new ones.  We will continue to fight for access to information that allows us to maintain our independence on our jobs and in our lives.  We will do all that we can to raise the expectations of society and of ourselves about blindness.  We will support one another and keep getting to know one another as individuals, and figure out ways that we can all be more involved in our work.  I thank   you all very much for your support, and I look forward to our accomplishments in the years to come.

 

Ode to a Mentor and a Friend

By Ryan Strunk

 

(Editor’s Note:  This is the winner of the 2010 Metro Chapter essay contest.  Ryan grew up in Fremont, Nebraska.  He is a Communications Instructor teaching braille and computer at Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), is a past president of the National Association of Blind Students division of the NFB, and a is member of the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota.  We are glad to have him in Minnesota.)

 

From age two to age 18, I had the distinct privilege of working with Kim Adams on everything from learning braille to cooking to traveling independently—all the skills in which many of today’s blind youth never receive training.  Because of Kim’s excellent teaching and boundless dedication, I am able to lead a normal, productive life.

 

But Kim’s story is also our story.  The time and effort she was willing to put forth to insure that her students received the training we would need to be competent, successful blind people is the same work each of us in the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota does every time we advocate for the rights of blind people.  Every time we hold ourselves and the public to a higher standard of expectations, we raise the bar that much higher for those who will come after us, and though some may tell us we are being unrealistic or expecting too much of blind people, we the blind know better.

 

Kim Adams is retired from the public school system now, but she continues to work to improve the lives of blind children all across the country.  She is still active in the National Federation of the Blind, and she still believes wholeheartedly in the capabilities of blind people.

 

When Kim retired in 2008, her co-workers asked those of us who learned from her to write our reflections for her in a scrapbook.  I include my remarks here as a public thanks to Kim for helping me to become the man I am today.  At the same time, however, I include them here to show just how much of an impact the work we do can have.

 

Kim’s story is our story, and our story is a great one.

 

Dear Kim,

 

I wonder if there is a nice way to tell someone he or she is mean.  I suppose it all depends on how I write it and how you take it.  I hope, though, that as you read what amounts to a heartfelt roast—one out of love, of course—you keep in mind that, as far as I'm concerned, you did everything right.

 

Kim, let's be honest with one another.  I mean really, really honest.  You're mean, okay?  Sometimes, you're downright cruel!  Five detentions for not writing down my assignments?  And not once, but three or four times!  That's fifteen to twenty detentions.  That's seven and a half to ten hours of my life that I'll never get back.  Granted, I've spent more than that in front of the Nintendo on a good weekend, but I mean really!

 

Everyone else got their books from the teachers.  No, not me.  I had to order my own books all the time.  So unfair!

 

You made me sew!  You made me cook!  You made me vacuum your house!  I am not your maid!

 

I had to miss lunch in first grade so I could sit in a dark classroom with you and learn to cut meat!  If God had wanted us to use forks, he wouldn't have given us fingers!

 

I had to walk around with sleepshades on!  In public!  In front of people!  "What are you?" they asked.  "A burn victim?”  "Why do you have those things on your face?"

 

I had to miss class to study braille.  "He's so lucky," they said.  "He gets out of class 15 minutes early.”  Yeah?  Well while you guys were studying your aquamarine and teal readers, I was prancing my happy bootie up and down the sidewalks learning to cross streets and shoreline.  Lucky me, huh?

 

Do you have any idea how hard it is to write with a slate and stylus?  You do?  Well, do you have any idea how hard it is to write with a slate and stylus on an empty stomach?  You don't care?  Well I'll just starve, then.  See how you like it!

 

YOU CALLED ME BLIND!!!  You wouldn't even let me hide behind the false security of political correctness.  "I'm not blind; I'm optically occluded."

 

And I could go on…

 

I wonder why it never struck me before that there was more to your style than my perception of your cruel sadism.  Probably because when you're a child, and a kid, and a pre-teen, and a teen-ager, and a young adult, life is unfair.  I should get what I want, regardless of whether or not it is what I deserve.

 

And so you were mean—and if we're still being honest, you were more than mean.  If we printed what I thought about you sometimes, this book would probably catch fire.

 

I have to wonder as I'm writing this what you're thinking at this point.  Are you blushing?  Are you quaking with righteous indignation?  Are you holding fast to grim resolve?  "So what if I was mean," you might be saying to yourself.  "It was for your own good."

 

I hope it's the last of those, because despite my grumbling and grouchiness, my wheedling and whining, my cursing and complaining, my bartering and bit—well, you get the picture—I think I may just have turned out okay, and I owe so much of it to you.

 

As I look back on it now, I realize what a pain in the neck I was, and for that, I'm sorry.  I think, though, on some level it really was sinking in—with glacial slowness, of course—but sinking in nonetheless.

 

You gave me detentions for not writing down my assignments.  You even gave me a couple for negligent behavior (not wearing my watch to school).  But I eventually started wearing that watch, and I started filling the pages of those handi-books with my cramped abbreviations.

 

You caught me lifting my sleepshades while walking around my babysitter’s block.  You were supposed to be waiting back at the house!  All you did was clap your hands once, and I was reduced to paroxysms of guilty tears.

 

You even told me once that if I fiddled with the typewriter and broke it, you'd stop working with me.  You know, I never fiddled with that typewriter, despite all my curiosity.  I think the thought—even then—of losing your teaching scared me enough that I knew I had to do the right thing.

 

But the cruelest part?  I wasn't the only one who fought you.

 

You have spent your whole life working in a field where little is usually expected of the people you serve, and it hasn't always been comfortable for you.  The status quo has very little room for blind people with college degrees, blind people with jobs, or blind people with any semblance of a normal life, and because you chose to defy the status quo, you faced any number of uphill battles, blacklists, and irate teachers.

 

I was wrong, though, and so are they.

 

I used to think nasty thoughts about you.  I used to think you were unfair and unkind.  I never realized that what I took as unfairness was really a dose of reality in a world that would give me everything I wanted and nothing I needed.  I never realized that what I took for unkindness was really tough love in a world that would be soft for me on purpose.

 

You are a rare gem, Kim.  You are the treasure I never realized I had until I had already grown rich.  You polished me and shaped me, and through it all—the late nights, the weekends, the missed lunch breaks, the countless hours of devotion—you never lost your own gleam and sparkle.  Thank you for your love, your dedication, and your hard work.  I could not be where I am today without you.

 

Are you mean?  Absolutely!  But you're the kind of mean you can justify; you're the kind of mean that gets results.  I know that as you go through life, you won't ever lose that.  You'll stay strong, you'll stay focused, and you'll keep your determination, and the world will be a better place because you're in it.

 

With all my love,

Ryan

 

State Services for the Blind Update

By Jon Benson, Director, Administrative Services Unit, Minnesota State Services for the Blind

 

(Editor’s Note:  This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on November 6, 2010.)

 

Good afternoon!

 

Thank you for this opportunity to update you on developments at State Services for the Blind (SSB).

 

I am Jon Benson and I am the Director of Administrative Services.  I have been with SSB since 1993, starting as a Rehabilitation Counselor before becoming a supervisor in the WorkForce Development Unit, where I served for 9 years before taking my current post.

 

Since your convention in May, there have been a few changes at SSB.

 

Before I start talking about all that is happening at SSB, I would like to say a sincere thank you to the NFB of Minnesota for all of your support.  Thanks especially to Judy Sanders, Jan Bailey, Joyce Scanlan, Kathy Hagen, Tom Scanlan, Steve Jacobson, Jennifer Dunnam, and anyone else I may have missed for their committee and Council work on behalf of SSB.

 

Also, I would like to recognize Andy Virden for his service on the Communication Center Committee of the Council and for his many years of work helping to ensure the Radio Talking Book is up and running and available to listeners in Central Minnesota.

 

We as a state are facing upwards of a $6 billion shortfall for the coming biennium.  SSB, like many state agencies, is in a difficult fiscal situation and it is likely we will be taking on our share of the shortfall.

 

As we look to the future, we are somewhat secure knowing we have taken steps necessary to operate within our current funding without a noticeable impact on services to blind Minnesotans. 

 

Let me give you some highlights from this past year for each SSB work unit:

 

WorkForce Development Unit (WDU)

 

Pam Brown, who many of you know is the Director of the WDU, will be retiring in March.  Efforts are underway for a smooth transition.  It is our intent to have a candidate selected for this position prior to her departure.

 

Funding from The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) has greatly benefited the WDU.  One specific benefit was to add a number of staff positions focused exclusively on job placement.  A new placement team was developed and a number of activities put in motion to assist our customers.

 

For example, the team has developed an approach that includes a focus on internships and career-specific experiences.  Also, several of the new hires come directly from private industry.  This does two things for us:

 

One, it helps us approach employers with a greater perspective on the way industry professionals communicate.  This includes resume preparation and letter writing; and

 

Two, it gives our customers the opportunity to do mock interviews with business- savvy professionals.

 

We are already starting to see positive results from this approach.  Figures for last year indicate 80 successful placements, which is 111% of our goal.  We also had 1,023 applicants during the year, with an average of 513 active clients per month.

 

An effort that began last year to increase outreach to transition-age youth via SSB 101 is still underway.  Several more SSB 101 events are being planned and will be held in different locations around the state. 

 

There is a new effort underway to assess the methods by which we can successfully reach out to minority populations.  This assessment will shape our plans to communicate the benefits of our services to various minority populations.

 

Assistive and Adaptive Technology Unit

 

Rich Gieschen, a long-time SSB employee has retired.  Rich was a very well-respected member of the community and he will be missed.

 

Our techs have had a record year providing services to students.  The technology needs of students are becoming more complex with, for example, the increased use of computers, the Internet, and DAISY digital books.  We are aware that during this recession there is an increase in general of people who are unemployed returning to school.  We believe this is the same for the WDU customer base, resulting in increased business from our student customers this year.  Our technicians worked hard and were able to meet the needs of our many students.

 

September 1 was a great day for all Minnesotans!  On that date the state launched its implementation of electronic accessibility standards.  These standards stipulate that Minnesota will now officially comply with Section 508, Website Content Accessibility Guidelines of the Federal Rehabilitation Act.  These guidelines insure that all Minnesota agencies and those that “do business” with the State will be accessible!

 

Audio Services

 

We are working to finish the process of determining whether we can feasibly provide text-to-speech services.  Several considerations still need to be worked out. 

 

Efforts are under way to increase outreach to the K-12 population regarding our ability to provide audio materials for students with learning disabilities.

 

Radio Talking Book (RTB)

 

Deployment of the new digital radio receivers continues.  So far they have been distributed in Warroad, Thief River Falls, Saint Cloud, Moorhead and Bemidji.  The hope is to have the rest of the markets up and running within the next year.

 

Braille

 

The Braille Unit is fully staffed and as busy as always with its very important work.

 

Senior Services Unit (SSU)

 

The Senior Services Unit continues to see its customer numbers increase.  Last year over 3,500 seniors were served.  The trend has been in this direction for a number of years and is likely to continue due to the ongoing growth of the senior population as a whole.

 

ARRA funds in the SSU allowed us to hire two new counselors this year prior to two retirements — one in Moorhead and one in Marshall.  In both cases the long-time counselors have retired and those positions are now held by the AARA new hires.  We do not know at this point whether we are able to maintain these positions, as is, once the ARRA funds expire.

 

Each of our units does important work and we are fully aware that our work will be harder to do with fewer resources.  Our total cut of State funding this year is $209,000.  Minnesota is facing a shortfall of 5-6 billion dollars, which will likely mean we will again be asked to do the same with less next year.

 

We are up to the challenge.  The State Rehabilitation Council for the Blind is fully appointed.  We look forward to working with experienced and new Council members who will bring their ideas to the table.  In addition, SSB has some new and younger staff that will bring new energy and new commitment to our work.  The Communication Center is looking for ways to deliver our products more efficiently with the same quality our customers have come to expect.

 

Also, our Development Director is having good success in developing a donor base and building our capacity to make up for some of our shortfalls in state dollars.

 

As always, we welcome the input we receive from the NFB of Minnesota.  With your partnership and advocacy I believe we will continue to find ways to provide and improve SSB services.

 

Thank you and have a great convention!

 

Report from Our Library

By Catherine Durivage, Director,Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library

 

(Editor’s Note:  This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on November 6, 2010.)

 

Hello.  My name is Catherine Durivage and I am the Library Director at the Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library.  Thank you for extending an invitation to me to speak at your annual conference again this year.

 

Over the past few years when I have come to speak to you about the library we seemed to be facing some serious budget and service challenges.  While we are not out of the woods completely regarding our budget issues, we are moving forward in a more positive direction.

 

Towards the end of last fiscal year we received permission to retain one of our two temporary employees and hire another librarian.  I am happy to report that we have filled both positions.  Meghan Kern was retained as one of our two Customer Service Specialists.  She has a background in literature and has been a wonderful asset to our staff.  If you have called the library in recent months you probably have already spoken with her.

 

Last month our new librarian started.  Dan Malosh was a public service librarian in Wisconsin.  He brings to my team a great deal of expertise in information technology, recording, and reference services.  He is currently implementing an update to our print/braille label software so we can start downloading, duplicating and labeling digital books.  He will be responsible for our website and hopefully, in the future, get us back on track with our volunteer recording program.

 

Please know that the library staff is extremely grateful for all your telephone calls, emails and personal visits to your legislators on our behalf.  Your continued support of this service means a great deal to each one of us.

 

At this time last year I also spoke about the transition to digital that was barely off the ground.  Well, a year later and the new digital players are in the hands of close to 3,500 patrons.  We have been sending letters and emails and making telephone calls to our patrons notifying them about the availability of the new players.  We are now in the process of contacting individuals that may not have been as active in the past year to make sure they are aware that the new players are here.  NLS ceased cassette production as of October 1, so from this point forward, no new books not already in production, will be produced on cassette.  If you have not received your new player and want one, please contact us or State Services for the Blind.  We are also requesting that if you have material checked out for more than six weeks, please return them so we can send these books to others who are on our waiting lists.

 

When you return your digital books, please make sure that

 

1.     the correct cartridge is in the container.  We have a couple dozen mixed-up book containers that have the wrong digital book inside;

2.     there is a cartridge in the container.  We receive about two containers every day that are empty;

3.     you are returning the container with the same mailing card that the book was shipped in.  The mailing card identifies what book went out to what person and we use it to check in books.  It will take us longer to process a returned book without its mailing card or an incorrect mailing card.  Just remember the mailing cards, cartridges and containers are not interchangeable.

 

We have been asked when we anticipate increasing the checkout limit for digital books.  Currently the checkout limit is five digital books for six weeks.  We hope to increase this number, but probably not until the end of the year or early in 2011.  There will always be a cap on digital book checkouts, but it will be higher than five.  We started out at two books, and then went to three and now we are at five.  Our digital book collection is quite a bit smaller than our cassette collection and we do not receive as many digital copies as compared to cassettes.  This is why there is currently a limit in place.

 

For those of you that have a computer and access to the Internet you can register to use Minnesota BARD and download additional books and magazines that can be played on the new players.  You would have 24/7 access to close to 20,000 titles.  We currently have almost 500 patrons registered to use Minnesota BARD and they downloaded over 23,000 books and magazines from October 1, 2000 through September 30, 2010.  On average we circulate 25,000-27,000 books per month, so the BARD downloads equal about one month of our in-house circulation.  We expect the number of BARD users to increase as more players get into the hands of our patrons.

 

We understand that NLS plans to merge Web-braille into BARD.  Last we heard this was to take place yet this year.  We have not had any recent updates on its progress, but we will keep you posted as we find out more information.

 

For more information about Minnesota BARD visit https://nlsbard.loc.gov/MN1A.

  

We still receive questions about keeping the cassette players.  We strongly recommend keeping your cassette player since it will be awhile before our collection of digital titles will be sufficient in quantity.  NLS did recently announce that they plan to convert to digital all cassette titles except for those that are obsolete in terms of content, like medical or law books, or those titles whose original analog recording is not of significant quality to convert to digital.  NLS may instead re-record those titles.  It will be quite a number of years before the majority of our cassette collection will be available in digital format.  All retro titles produced from cassette to digital will be available to download on Minnesota BARD.  It will be up to individual libraries to determine whether or not they want to produce their own copies on cartridge to mail to patrons.

 

We also receive a number of questions about magazines on digital.  Magazines present a challenge for NLS.  It is cost prohibitive to send individual magazine issues out on digital cartridges, especially when the practice has been that you didn’t have to return cassette magazines.  NLS is looking at some pilot projects in the coming months regarding sending a series magazines issues out on digital cartridges.  In the meantime, magazines will continue to be sent by mail on cassette.  You can also download current and back issues of magazines from Minnesota BARD.

 

Available digital books are listed in Talking Book Topics.  Digital books will have the letters DB listed before the book number.  Cassette books use the prefix RC.  Both cassettes and digital books will share the same book number.  The prefix, DB or RC, will let you know in what format a book is available. 

 

NLS recently published its annual catalog of audio books.  They changed its name from Cassette Books to Digital Talking Books Plus.  The most recent issue is 2009.  If you would like a large-print copy, let us know.  It will eventually be available on a digital cartridge and on Minnesota BARD to download.

 

We know many of you use the Internet and email, so we are looking at ways to use things like listservs, blogs, and other technologies to keep you up-to-date on library happenings.  While the main means that people contact us is by telephone, we know that other technologies exist that could be used to keep you informed.

 

As for the future, our biggest challenges continue to be the ongoing transition to digital and working on increasing our funding and staffing levels.  I understand we continue to be in a very difficult economic time, but I believe we can meet and overcome these challenges with the support of your group.

 

It has been a pleasure being here today.  If there is time, I entertain questions.

 

Thank you,  

Catherine A. Durivage

Library Program Director

Minnesota Braille and Talking Book Library 

Catherine.durivage@state.mn.us

 

Promoting Literacy and Quality Education for Blind Students in Minnesota

By Kristin Oien, Blind/Visually-Impaired Specialist, Minnesota Department of Education

 

(Editor’s Note:  This presentation was given at the Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota on November 6, 2010.)

 

 Good morning!

 

Thank you so much for inviting me to your 90th Annual National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota Conference.  Before I begin, I have a special shout out for Dave Andrews, who received the 2010 C. Stanley Potter Lifetime Achievement Award.  Dave and Ken Trebelhorn have assisted with our Assistive Technology Loan Project and I wanted to personally thank them.

 

My name is Kristin Oien; I am the new Minnesota Department of Education State Specialist for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  After telling you a little bit about myself, I’d like to outline my vision and goals for this school year, share current data regarding blind youth in Minnesota, and lastly I would like to brainstorm ways that students across the state can become more involved and connected with successful blind mentors and the blind community.

 

I have been a teacher of the visually impaired for over 20 years and a certified orientation and mobility specialist for over ten years.  I received both my degrees from San Francisco State University, and completed my student teaching at the Society for the Blind in Sacramento, and the Elk Grove Unified School District in California.  Before accepting this position with the Minnesota Department of Education, I was part of a diagnostic testing team for blind, deaf-blind, and deaf and hard of hearing students out of the Hawaii School for the Deaf and the Blind in Honolulu.  Prior to that, I was the State Specialist for the Visually Impaired for the State of Hawaii Department of Education.  My husband of 18 years was born in Milaca, Minnesota — hence the Minnesota connection — and we have a 15 year old daughter who is a freshman at Irondale High School.

 

As the MDE BVI Specialist, I am responsible for providing support, training and technical assistance to teachers of the visually impaired, orientation & mobility specialists, and other stakeholders who provide services to students with disabilities and their families.  Along with being the Director of the BVI Resource Center in Faribault, I am also the American Printing house for the Blind Ex Officio Trustee for the State of Minnesota MDE.

 

Our vision at MDE is that all children get necessary support for healthy development and lifelong learning.  The special education policy division’s mission is to provide leadership to ensure a high quality education for all Minnesota’s children and youth with disabilities.

 

My main focus this year has been to listen and learn about how services to students with visual impairments are delivered in Minnesota, while at the same time gathering information regarding strengths and needs within the field.  A survey is currently being developed that will be used to plan professional development, training and mentoring opportunities throughout the state.  Another focus of mine is to assist with making the tasks of the teachers of the visually impaired more efficient and productive.  During the last four months, we have developed and implemented an on-line ordering process for all APH orders, eliminating time consuming paper mailing, and saving a few trees in the process.  We will also be conducting the APH census electronically for the first time this year, again, eliminating the need for paper exchange.  Another recent productive change has been to establish a listserv that braillists and tactile graphics producers can access to share questions, information, ideas and training opportunities.

 

I have also met with all but one of the Low Incidence Facilitators at their regional offices and attended many regional BVI meetings to gain firsthand knowledge about each area of the state and the special circumstances and situations they face.  I have learned that the challenges and service delivery models from the metro area, to outstate greater Minnesota are extremely unique; and that in this current climate of economic challenge and political change, we will need to be creative and think outside the box for current needs to be met.

 

Currently the 2009 MDE Unduplicated Child Count indicates there are 427 blind and visually impaired students in Minnesota.  However, the American Printing House for the Blind Federal Census indicates there are 785 BVI students.  The disparity in these numbers comes from the MDE child count only indicating the primary eligibility category as BVI, while the APH census takes into account multiply impaired students who are also blind.

 

The APH Primary Reading Medium data indicates that there are 48 auditory, 69 braille, 121 visual or large print, 213v pre-readers, and 334 non-readers in the state.  These numbers should be taken with caution, as they were collected by APH for purposes of material production – not educational status.  I have included them to show that multihandicapped BVI students make up between 40 -60% of BVI teacher caseloads.

 

Most of us here today are aware that nationally there is a shortage of qualified professionals in the blindness field, a lack of ability to track national outcomes for blind students, and the staggering unemployment rates of blind working age adults.  But I want to share something very important with you; the teachers of the visually impaired and orientation & mobility specialists in Minnesota did not go through 4 years of college and 2 – 4 years of graduate school to enter the field of teaching the blind to become wealthy and live a life of luxury.

 

One of my first impressions from my first weeks of work in Minnesota was how dedicated and devoted the BVI teachers and mobility specialists were.  Minnesota is fortunate to have a wealth of experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the field who are willing to take the time to meet together in small community of practice groups to focus on targeted issues of student need and develop creative ways to meet those needs.  I am truly excited to be working with such a diverse and dedicated group of professionals and I am hopeful that we can work together with stakeholders like you across the state to develop collaborative, viable opportunities for our blind students.  NFB and MDE have come together to share information and resources, I have posted information regarding NFB Saturday School, Teen Nights, Summer Programs and Scholarship opportunities on the MDE BVI Listserv, and last month NFB and MDE worked collaboratively to host a Transition Fair.

 

Yesterday at our second statewide vision network meeting, representatives from the American Council of the Blind of Minnesota shared information and resources which will also be posted to the BVI listserv.

 

It is my overall goal that blind and visually impaired youth in Minnesota receive quality instruction that will lead to their independence and success.  I have told O&M university students that I have supervised in the past, that the mark of a good cane user was their ability to switch cane techniques to meet the changes in their environment and that it was the O&M instructors’ responsibility to provide good instruction so the students would have a repertoire of skill sets to choose from.

 

Thank you so much for your time today, and I want you to know that I welcome suggestions for effective change.  Please feel free to contact me with concerns or ideas for the future.

My email address is Kristin.Oien@state.mn.us

My telephone number is 651-582-8843

 

Technology Aids Lives of 2 Blind St. Cloud Women

Lifelong friends talk of many changes

By Kevin Allenspach, St. Cloud Times

 

(Editor’s Note:  This article appeared in the St. Cloud Times as part of our Central Minnesota Chapter’s promotion of Meet the Blind Month in October.)

 

Mary Beth Moline and Gayle Gruber-Bengtson have been friends for nearly 50 years, so they know one another about as well as can be considering neither can really say what the other looks like.

 

Moline and Gruber-Bengtson are blind, virtually since birth.  Moline said she was told her eyes stopped developing even before she was born.  Gruber-Bengtson also was born with defective optic nerves, though she later has been able to see basic shapes and outlines with the help of very strong glasses.

 

They grew up in St. Cloud and met in grade school at the former Washington Elementary, where Gruber-Bengtson was in the sixth grade and Moline was in the first.  They learned braille from Freda Schowalter, who taught them a lot more, too.

 

"She had these squeaky shoes — think she wore them on purpose — so we always knew where she was or when she was coming," Gruber-Bengtson said.  "She taught us to listen. There is so much you can be aware of if you concentrate and listen.  We used to have this ball we'd play with.  It beeped and we'd pass it around a circle.  I used to call it the 'green satellite.’  There were nine of us in class and we were playing and it got lost.  We asked her to find it and she said 'No, you find it.'  It was one of the first instances where she was trying to teach us independence."

 

Gruber-Bengtson and Moline have been pursuing it ever since, and the rapid expansion of technology in the past 15 years has helped them achieve it like never before.  It's something they've celebrated during October, which is Meet the Blind Month — sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. Gruber-Bengtson and Moline are active members.

 

Moline worked two stints at Fingerhut, most recently from 1985-2002, answering phones, transferring calls and taking messages.  She started out on an electric typewriter.

 

"I'd type messages and lay them out on my desk and people would walk by and the air current would sometimes blow the messages onto the floor and all over the place," Moline said.  "Then in 1994, I got my first computer."

 

Compared with the software of today, it was archaic, but it was a breakthrough.  Before long, text-to-speech technology became available and now Gruber-Bengtson and Moline can communicate with each other as well as anybody else on the planet via e-mail.  A program, Job Access with Speech, nicknamed JAWS, is integral to a blind person working in the sighted world.  And, the opening of the Internet to the blind has led both to a vast array of information that otherwise would've been unavailable to them unless they got it in braille or had someone read it.

 

"Oh, how I wish we'd had this technology when we were growing up," said Gruber-Bengtson, 59, a 1971 Technical High School graduate.  "Now I can read Dear Abby, I listen to the St. Cloud Times through the Minnesota Radio Talking Book program, and there are a variety of old-time radio stations out there — including one I listen to (that is) run by blind disc jockeys.  In the 1970s and well into the '80s, there was no assistive technology like this."

 

Gruber-Bengtson moved through several jobs after she graduated from the Minneapolis Society for the Blind.  She worked in the Twin Cities at a law firm, then for the Minnesota Migrant Council.  Later, she came back to St. Cloud and worked for an answering service.  There she met her husband, Jim Bengtson, who was sighted.  He died two years ago.  She keeps busy now as secretary for the Central Minnesota Chapter of the NFB, by volunteering, and by playing bingo on Wednesday nights with a group of sighted friends.  (She uses braille bingo cards.)

 

Moline also is an active volunteer.  She has collated 95,000 volunteer cards for the United Way, ties yarn on quilt projects at Catholic Charities, and teaches preschool and elementary crafts at her church — Northland Bible Baptist.

 

"If people meet us, I hope they'd treat us the same as they would their sighted friends," said Moline, 54.  "You should know there are a lot of things we can do for ourselves.  We just do them in different ways.  But don't be afraid to hire a blind person when they're qualified for a job, and don't be too shy to come up and talk with us.  I actually think it's fun when people describe things to me that I might be seeing."

 

Just don't grab a blind person because you think they need help, Gruber-Bengtson says.  Ask first.

 

"That can disorient you and you might fall or lose your bearings," she said, then joked, "Oh, and don't point when you're giving directions."

 

Meet the Blind Month

By Tom Scanlan

 

Every October the National Federation of the Blind conducts a nationwide series of events and informational activities to increase public understanding of blindness and the true capability of blind people.  In Minnesota, we obtained government proclamations from the state and several cities.  Here is the state proclamation.

 

STATE of MINNESOTA

PROCLAMATION

 

WHEREAS: The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was founded in 1940 to serve as the voice of the nation's blind, to end discrimination against the blind, and to secure first-class citizenship for all blind persons; and

 

WHEREAS: The National Federation of the Blind represents more than 50,000 members across the country and continues to work to secure equal rights and opportunities for the blind; and

 

WHEREAS: The National Federation of the Blind seeks to change attitudes about blindness by providing information to parents, teachers, school administrators, and business, political, social, and civic leaders; and

 

WHEREAS: The National Federation of the Blind has developed a public education campaign, “Meet the Blind Month,” to address misunderstandings about blindness and to create opportunities for the people of Minnesota to learn firsthand that blind people are basically like everyone else; and

 

WHEREAS: The Minnesota affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, now in its 90th year, invites neighbors, coworkers, and classmates to participate in various Meet the Blind events throughout the month of October to learn how blind people lead full and active lives:

 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, TIM PAWLENTY, Governor of Minnesota, do hereby proclaim the month of October 2010 to be:

 

MEET THE BLIND MONTH

 

in the State of Minnesota.

 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Minnesota to be affixed at State Capitol this 28th day of September in the year of our Lord two thousand and ten, and of the State the one hundred fifty-second.

 

Signed:

Tim Pawlenty

GOVERNOR

Mark Ritchie

SECRETARY OF STATE

 

To give a more personal and first-hand experience of the lives and capabilities of blind people, Sheila Koenig maintained a series of profiles on our Facebook page.  Here are the profiles from the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota Facebook page.

 

Jan Bailey

In college, I worked in a dark room splicing movie film.  After college, I worked in a nursing home as a social worker for five years, and then came back to Minnesota where I got a job at Minnesota State Services for the Blind and worked as a counselor for 31 years.  Now I have started my own business, and work as a rehabilitation teacher, teaching braille, daily living skills to people who are newly blind, and classes for seniors.

 

I love to cook, bake, read, play cards and scrabble, and travel.

 

I can do a lot more to change the lives of blind people by being a member of the National Federation of the Blind than I could ever do by myself.

 

I own a condominium, enjoy entertaining and do a lot of volunteer work for my church.  I had six brothers and two sisters, and wanted to do everything they did.

 

Jennifer Dunnam

I work on a contract with the Library of Congress, administering nationwide courses leading to certification for braille transcribers and proofreaders (and flying frequently throughout the country).  Volunteer activism takes much of my time, but I also enjoy brisk walks, swimming, books, technology, music, etc.  The NFB taught me that independence is more than just being able to do things for myself.  It's also the expectation that we who are blind will do meaningful things for others and do our part to leave the world better than we found it.

 

Steve Jacobson

After completing a major in mathematics, I have been working as a computer programmer and analyst at several levels for over 30 years.  Computers and technology are very much a part of my hobby, too.  I particularly enjoy how one can process and edit sound on computers.  Collecting and listening to old historical recordings is also something I enjoy greatly.  Music has also been an important part of my life, listening to favorite artists and occasionally playing an electronic keyboard.

 

The National Federation of the blind has been important to me in several ways.  While I joined the NFB because its philosophy seemed closest to my own, I soon found that the NFB also stretched me to do more as a blind person than I would otherwise have done.  Our annual conventions give me a chance to meet other blind persons who are doing what I do, but finding ways of doing it better.  I learn a great deal from other members of the NFB while working through the NFB to open up new opportunities for all of us.

 

While blindness certainly affects how I do things, I am fortunate to have been able to work, own a house, and help raise two kids.  This is not unusual for blind people I have come to learn, but it also shows how much of my life is no different from that of those with normal vision.  Blindness has an effect upon my life but it does not control it.

 

Sheila Koenig

I have taught 9th grade English at South View Middle School in Edina, Minnesota for over ten years.  In addition to English, I have taught Spanish, Media Literacy, and an exploratory on auto insurance!  For fun, I enjoy reading, shopping, cooking, exercising, and watching movies.  One of my annual highlights is hosting an Academy Awards party. 

 

The National Federation of the Blind has shown me that blindness is not synonymous with incompetence and inadequacy.  Blind people can use alternative techniques to navigate the same paths as sighted people, and we can be productive, contributing members of society.

 

Michele Denise Michaels

I am a singer and performer who has worked abroad and in the US.  I earned two degrees, one in vocal performance and the other in music business.  Although I don’t have much leisure time, I like to spend the leisure time I do have cleaning and traveling.  (I just don’t like packing.)

 

NFB allows me to connect and interact with the independent blind community.  The training I received at Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated enabled me to return to college and succeed.  Now, I work as a freelance performer and am able to work in many performance settings that were out of reach before due to my lack of blindness training.  NFB taught me that it is respectable to be blind and that’s how I live my life.

 

I enjoy books, talks, classes and conferences on Catholic studies.  I’m fascinated by the stories of others and enjoy meeting new people.  I have hiked in the Swiss Alps, biked in Holland and worked as a background singer/dancer in a disco band (although I can’t believe I’m admitting that last one on Facebook).  I have directed gospel choirs, performed in opera and theater productions and toured internationally.

 

All of these experiences have helped me launch my solo artist career.  Currently, I am working on three projects: a full-length CD, a self-published book (titled “Are You Really Blind?”) and a touring music show.

 

Tom Scanlan

I was employed for more than 37 years in progressive positions beginning as a research analyst, then computer programmer, and ending as a computer-support manager.  As a manager, I was responsible for a computer equipment and personnel budget of $5 million.

 

Now retired, I enjoy reading history and business nonfiction and watching TV and movie dramas.  The NFB showed me that blind people were just as capable as sighted people were, and it built my self-confidence.  I am just like anyone else — husband, homeowner, professional, traveler, and investor.

 

Amanda Swanson

I completed my Bachelor’s degree in Biology.  I work at the Nature Conservancy, where I implement my dream of helping the environment.  In the future, I plan to attend graduate school. 

 

I enjoy traveling, attending heavy metal concerts, working out at the gym, and watching baseball (both live and on TV).  The NFB is important because it provides a positive network of people to talk to about blindness related issues, such as educating the public about blindness.  My blindness is not who I am — I have a job, friends, family, and a variety of interests.

 

Emily Zitek

For 10 years, I worked at an adjustment-to-blindness training center.  I started as a receptionist and then became the braille translator and life skills teacher.  Teaching blind people was my way of passing on the freedom I acquired from the NFB.  Now I am a sole proprietor who has a convenience store and 20 vending machines in a State of Minnesota building.

 

I enjoy cooking Southern dishes (I grew up in Louisiana), baking, exercising, going to ball games, entertaining and doing other things out in the community to educate the public about the true meaning of blindness.

 

The NFB has created a light at the end of a long and dark tunnel for me.  Before the NFB, I envisioned my entire life of living in my small hometown in Southwestern Louisiana where I would have to rely on my family to help me with everything.  Now, because of the NFB, I have the skills and confidence to live a successful life across the country from my family.

 

I own both a home and a business.  In both situations, I have to make all the decisions about what happens.  I no longer feel like I have to leave things in the hands of my family.  In fact, I don’t even need to ask my husband about things that are my decision.

 

Shawn Mayo

I grew up in Bellville, Illinois and became blind from leukemia during my senior year of high school.  After earning a BS in Psychology at Bradley University and winning appeals for the Illinois Department of Vocational Services to fund out-of-state blindness training, I became a student at Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated.  I completed the comprehensive program and went on to earn my master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Southwest Missouri State University.

 

Through my training at BLIND, Inc., I had learned first hand how much more comfortable and efficient blind people could become when they learned the alternative techniques and developed a positive attitude toward blindness.  I wanted to continue making this opportunity available for other blind people to discover this as well, so when I was offered the position of Assistant Director for Marketing and Outreach, I felt it would be an excellent opportunity to do just that.

 

When Joyce Scanlan, BLIND's founding Executive Director, announced her retirement in 2003, the Board of Directors selected me to fill this position, and I have found it both challenging and rewarding and have greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with such a talented and hard-working staff.

 

I have also worked as a baseball card dealer, a veterinary assistant, researcher and statistician, and counselor.  I volunteer my time to organizations for cancer, diabetes, and the National Federation of the Blind.  I have served as president of the National Association of Blind Students and president of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals.  Outside of work, my interests include horses, theater, and the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

Al Spooner

I am a North Dakota native, and lived in Idaho 18 years prior to moving to Minneapolis in August of 2002.  Over most of the past 25 years my career dealt with computer sales and training.  I have worked for two major retail corporations as a salesperson and manager.  My career ended abruptly in February of 1999 when I became blind.  Since that time, I completed my blindness training as well as an A.S. Degree in Communications.

 

From August 2002 to December 2005, I worked for Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Incorporated as the computer and technology instructor.  In January of 2006, I became the Assistant Director for Marketing and Outreach enabling me to spend more time spreading the word about effective blindness training that produces confident, independent, and successful blind individuals.

 

I have a number of hobbies and interests, such as fishing, downhill skiing, playing guitar, traveling, reading, listening to Rock and Roll music, and of course, computers.  I have also been actively involved with the National Federation of the Blind, helping organize a chapter in my home community while in Idaho and serving as its president, serving as second vice-president for the NFB of Idaho, and serving as the treasurer of the Idaho Association of Blind Students.

 

Rob Hobson

I was born and raised in Illinois, and graduated from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a bachelor’s degree in political Science and pre-law.  I later graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind and then went on to earn a master’s degree in educational Psychology with an emphasis in Orientation and Mobility at Louisiana Tech, and received a NOMC certification.  Now I reside in Minneapolis working at Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) teaching cane travel.  I love to get out and experience all of the fun activities that the city has to offer.  Some of my hobbies include swimming, running, and bike riding.

 

George Wurtzel

I am a Michigan native, born in Saginaw in 1954.  I started my own business, Wurtzel Woodworking, in 1974 while in college.  This architectural and millwork shop did both commercial and residential fine woodworking in Traverse City Michigan.

 

In 1979, Kathy Emig and I organized the national Ski for Light cross-country event in Traverse City Michigan, and were instrumental in establishing that organization for visually impaired Michigan skiers.  In 1980, I was on the United States US Disabled Cross Country Ski Team, and traveled extensively in competitions.  In 1981, I was one of two blind persons in an eight-person cross-country ski expedition across Lapland.  It was a 45 day, 500-mile trip in March and April in many below zero days.

 

In 1983, I attended Catawba Valley College in Hickory, North Carolina, majoring in Furniture Production Management.  During that time, I was employed in the woodworking industry making furniture prototypes for the large manufacturers, and started my own business called Sell America.  It was there I honed my skills as a gourmet cook.  My free time was occupied with riding, raising, and training Arabian horses.

 

In 1997, I moved back to Michigan and went into the kitchen design and remodeling business.  I took classes and became certified in Corian and other solid surface countertop manufacturing.  In 1999, I was the first blind person to get a Michigan Builders License.

 

In April 2010, I became the Industrial Arts instructor at Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc.

 

Sharon Monthei

I was born and raised on a farm near Jefferson, Iowa.  At age 17, I attended the Iowa Commission for the Blind.  By the end of the training, I decided to become a teacher of the blind.  I hold a degree in Secondary English Education from Drake University, and a certificate in teaching English as a Second Language from Hamline University.  My career has included rehabilitation teaching and counseling, teaching cane travel, teaching computer skills, proofreading braille textbooks, and now teaching English to immigrants and refugees.  I am also the author of several books regarding the education of blind children, computer technology and a braille-teaching book for adults that is in its second edition.  My hobbies include swimming, music, reading and writing.

 

Charlene Guggisberg

I grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota, where my parents and older brothers expected me to help with farm and household chores and not have blindness be an excuse for getting out of work.  After being mainstreamed in the Faribault public schools six out of the seven years that I attended the school for the blind in Faribault, I returned to my home high school of Winthrop Minnesota where I graduated and later attended the St. Mary’s campus college of St. Catherine’s where I received a degree as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.  I have also done coursework at St. Catherine’s campus in St. Paul, Minnesota University Duluth, and Mankato State University.  After working for seven years as an Occupational Therapy assistant at New Ulm Medical center in both the Physical Medicine and behavioral health units, I worked as a rehabilitation instructor in many capacities for Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND) Incorporated as well as an independent contract worker for State Services for the Blind.  I have worked with all age groups from children to seniors teaching braille, home management, cane travel and English.  I have worked with soldiers from both the United States and Colombia who were coping with vision loss.

 

Ryan Strunk

I was born in Fremont Nebraska where I lived a “completely normal” life, and was extremely fortunate to receive a quality education in braille, cane travel, and daily living skills because of the efforts of my parents and teachers.  I was one of the lucky few blind kids who are raised to believe they have the capability to compete on an equal footing with the sighted; nothing was given to me just because I was blind.  I had a paper route; I sold telephone service; I even manufactured toilet paper so I could have spending cash.

 

After earning my Bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska, I and my wife moved to Honolulu, Hawaii where I taught braille at Ho’pono Services for the Blind.  Wanting to be closer to our families, however, we returned to the mainland and later moved to Minnesota.

 

I have a Bachelor’s degree in music education and have earned the National Certification in Literary Braille.  I have worked in jobs ranging from manufacturing to political fundraising, and have spent a year and a half working for the National Federation of the Blind to promote our Braille Leaders are Leaders initiative.

 

I have been active in the National Federation of the Blind for many years, serving on both the state and national level including two years as treasurer and two years as president of the National Association of Blind Students.

 

When not working, I pursue a variety of interests, enjoying reading, playing guitar, computer programming, and cooking.

 

Do You Know Someone Needing Money for College?

 

The NFB Scholarship Program application is now available online.  This national scholarship program is available solely to persons who are legally blind and living in the United States or Puerto Rico.  There are 30 awards, from $12,000 to $3,000.  In addition, each winner will be assisted to attend the NFB Annual Convention for 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  The annual contest began the first week of November 2010; all documents required from the applicants must be postmarked by the March 31,
2011, deadline.  Applications and full details are available online at www.nfb.org/scholarships.  Questions may be emailed to scholarships@nfb.org.

Cordially,

Chairperson Patti Chang, Esq.

NFB Scholarship Committee

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, MD 21230

       at Jernigan Place

Office:  (410) 659-9314, x2415

 

Convention Alert!

 

Exciting times are coming in NFB conventions.  Keep these in mind as you plan your activities throughout the coming year.

 

The Semiannual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be in April or May 2011 at the NFB of Minnesota building in Minneapolis.  Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

The National NFB convention will be July 3 – 8, 2011 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida.  This is nearly a week of friends, fun, and serious business.  It is a chance to be part of the largest gathering of blind people in the world.  The full convention bulletin is in the Braille Monitor, and in the Upcoming Events section of the www.nfb.org website.

 

The Annual NFB of Minnesota Convention will be October or November 2011 in the Metro area.  Members will receive a letter with details about a month before the convention, and the letter will be on our website at www.nfbmn.org.

 

Chapter and Other Meetings to Remember

 

Metro Chapter — Twin Cities area; meets at 2:00 p.m. on the third Saturday of every month at NFB of MN Headquarters, 100 East 22nd Street in Minneapolis

 

Riverbend Chapter — New Ulm area; meets at 9:00 a.m. on the third Saturday of every month in New Ulm; contact Monica Buboltz at 507-354-5680 for meeting location

 

Rochester Chapter — Rochester area; meets at 7:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester 

 

Central Minnesota Chapter — St. Cloud area; meets at 12:30 on the second Saturday of every month at Old Chicago Restaurant in St. Cloud

 

Runestone Chapter — Alexandria area; meets at 1:30 on the third Saturday of every month at First Congregational Church in Alexandria

 

Braille Club — Any National Federation of the Blind member who uses braille is invited to attend.  This group meets at the NFB of Minnesota headquarters at 100 E. 22nd Street in Minneapolis on the first, second, and third non-holiday Monday of the month from 4:30-6:30.  Its purpose is to improve braille skills and get better acquainted with other NFB braille users.  Attendees bring their own book or magazine or borrow one.  Contact Melody Wartenbee at 612-870-9484 or e-mail mlwartenbee@gamil.com.

 

Saturday School — Every third Saturday of the month from 10:00 a.m.-Noon at the NFB of Minnesota headquarters at 100 E. 22nd Street in Minneapolis.  Saturday School is geared generally for blind children K-6 to find confidence and normalcy by learning to do everyday things from blind people who lead normal lives doing those things everyday, and to come to know blind people are really just like everyone else.  Contact Steve Jacobson at 952-927-7694 or e-mail steve.jacobson@visi.com.

 

Teen Night Transition Club — Every third Friday of the month 6:30-9:30 p.m.
at the NFB of Minnesota headquarters at 100 E. 22nd Street in Minneapolis.  Teen night is driven mostly by the teens!  It is an opportunity for blind teens ages 13-18 to network and socialize with each other and with young adult blind mentors.  Once they come, teens don't want to miss it!  Contact Charlene Guggisberg at 507-351-5413 or e-mail cguggisberg@blindinc.org

 

Acknowledgements

 

Many people are involved in getting this issue to you.  The writers can write and the editor can edit, but until the material is printed, brailled, recorded, and distributed, it is just a computer file.  Therefore, we owe great thanks to the following people for the work they do in producing this publication.

 

Tim Aune duplicates the cassette tape edition and makes the master copy for the compact disc edition.

Jennifer Dunnam transcribes the braille edition.

Art Hadley reads the audio edition for cassette tape and Compact Disc.

Judy Sanders proofreads and provides corrections for both the print and braille editions.
Tom Scanlan marks up and posts the website edition.

Sid Starnes deals with the printer for the print edition and other tasks as needed.

Emily Zitek embosses and collates the copies for the braille edition and mails all editions.